Sluggish return from lockdown

Firms in ‘first gear’ and retail still in ‘doldrums’

shop closed in Covid

Shops are only slowly emerging from lockdown

Firms are still operating at about half of their pre-Covid capacity, with the economy still “in first gear,” the British Chambers of Commerce says.

The BCC’s coronavirus impact tracker – billed as the largest business survey of its type – found that on average, companies were at 53% of capacity.

Half of firms cited consumer demand and possible local lockdowns as obstacles to fully restarting operations.

The BCC again called for tax cuts to help businesses recover.

The survey of firms between 6-10 July also revealed that 43% of businesses reported an increase in late payments from customers when compared with the last six months of 2019.

Scottish retail sales for June “remained in the doldrums”, down by almost a fifth (18.6%) compared with the same month last year.

David Lonsdale

David Lonsdale: ‘more needs to be done’ (pic: Terry Murden)

The figures, from the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), suggested it was the fourth successive month of double-digit decline.

Paul Martin, KPMG UK’s head of retail, said: “It’s clear the easing of lockdown has failed to kickstart a full recovery in Scotland’s retail sector. The overall outlook remains incredibly depressed, particularly for clothing retailers.

“The shift to online sales has helped offset some of the challenges, but the situation remains critical for many of the country’s highest profile brands as well as independent retailers.”

He added: “As we slowly enter the final phase in Scotland’s lockdown, we’re confident that conditions will continue to improve, but a concerted, collaborative effort from the industry and political leaders will be essential if we’re to reverse the long-term downward trend and return to sustainable growth in the country’s high streets.”

David Lonsdale, director of the SRC, added: “Last month’s performance lagged well behind that of the UK as a whole – unsurprising after more than three full months of lockdown.

“More needs to be done in particular to bring the energy and footfall back into our city centres.”

Beer tax review

The UK Government is reviewing alcohol taxation “to support the alcoholic drinks and pubs sector in the longer term”.

Sarah Crawford Scotland director of the Campaign for Real Ale said it is a “fantastic opportunity to take radical action to support and save our pubs.”

Sarah Crawford Camra

Sarah Crawford: ‘fantastic opportunity’ (pic: Terry Murden)

She added: “CAMRA’s plan for a tax reduction for beer served on tap would promote drinking in the supervised setting of the community pub rather than promoting cheap booze served in supermarkets – helping to support pub-going, encourage responsible drinking, save jobs and keep pubs alive and thriving.

“This proposal would be a lifeline for pubs across Scotland that are currently fighting for their survival in the wake of COVID-19.

“We are calling on Scotland’s MPs of all parties to make their voices heard and back this measure.”

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